Monday, January 24, 2011

The snark of Doctor Lao

I've commented publicly upon this stanzel of Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark at least four or five times now, both in presentations and in writing … and yet, my original exegesis seems to me to be the best … 

The circus-like atmosphere of this Snark hunt has turned dangerous, dangerous to a degree that Lewis Carroll would certainly never countenance! As a pedagogue, Carroll was very aware of the dangers posed by throwing sharp objects at others; he frequently had to remind his young charges to cease throwing sticks and paper clips and buttered scones at each other lest they put out someone’s eye!

The fact that the above-pictured Snarquistadores are all nominally adults does not lessen the culpability of their criminal negligence. The Broker, played here by Erik Satie, is recklessly endangering the very person of the charming Beaver with his lethal spades, whilst the Boots, embodied by the respectably hirsute Charles Darwin, says nothing.

Perhaps the Boots is afraid of Satie? Perhaps he is afraid of remonstrating with this mysterious person who founded his own religion (The Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus, Leader), who promulgated the use of boredom as a musical motif and who took up smoking to give his physician extra income?

We shall never know for certain, this drawing furnishes as few clues as Carroll’s stanza does. The Mona-Lisa smile of the Beaver, the inscrutable visage of the Satie-Broker, they all hint at some deeper mystery … perhaps the Boot’s odd position is a clue … yes … that may be it … how does he manage to remain so firmly affixed to his trapeze board whilst upside-down?

Is he transfixed there by boredom? Can it be that he is listening to the Broker’s 14-hour long solo masterpiece (which Gavin Bryars described as a sort of "Ring des Nibelungen des pauvres"), a work of music so maddeningly dull and repetitive that the ordinary laws of gravity have simply given up in disgust and gone somewhere else — somewhere less plagued by such boojum-like Vexations?

NB. If you're eager for more snarkery this Friday, January 28th, 7 p.m., then come to the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly at 211 Bernard Ouest in Montreal … details here … you might enjoy the steam-powered magic lantern show I plan to expose to the public. I'll be signing books and discussing the post-Nonsensical dichotomies of Victorian hermeneutics … the poorer members of the audience can applaud politely, the rest of you can rattle your poutines discreetly …